Dinosaurs have long featured in the Imaginext line-up. And it's really not surprising, as there are very few kids who don't love dinosaurs. In the past we've had dinosaurs mixing with both cavemen and futuristic riders but this time around Imaginext has introduced a new spin for 2015 by introducing a group of dino-riders that appear to be modeled after the Aztecs.
The line is divided into two tribes, the Bone Tribe who - as their name may imply - wear armor crafted from bones (presumably from their fallen enemies) and another, unnamed tribe who appear to worship (or at least revere and utilize) lava and volcanoes (so let's call them the Lava Tribe for now...) As ever, there are a variety of playsets and characters available, ranging from the top-end, motorized T-Rex (clad in bones!) to entry-level sets featuring a smaller dinosaur and tribesman and it's from this end of the scale that the subject of today's Review comes.
The Velociraptor retails for around $8 and is one of the cheaper sets in the line-up (alongside the Stegosaurus, Pterodactyl and Saharicus sets.) As mentioned above, the set features a smaller-sized dinosaur and a tribesman. In this case, he's a member of the Bone Tribe, who - from their macabre costume and general demeanor - I'm assuming are the bad guys in this scenario.
We'll begin by taking a look at the Tribesman.
This set includes a member of the Bone Tribe and, as you can see, they certainly look to take the whole ''bone'' motif pretty seriously!
Like many Imaginext figures, the Tribesman's appearance is augmented by a helmet/shoulder/torso piece. As you can see, it's modeled from bone and features some really nice up-close detail. I also like that it's asymmetrical, with a spiked shoulder pad on the right and a skull on the left, as this echoes his overall look (notice that his bracelets and anklets are also non-symmetrical.) The horned helmet is particularly cool and I really dig how the open mouth forms the opening in the helmet, although it can be a little awkward to position, as there are some angles from which it appears he's peeping over the bottom jaw, something that makes him a little less ferocious...!
I also really dig the spine-detail and although the ''ribs'' look a little odd, I can live with it.
As with most of these helmet-tabbard pieces, the shoulders do restrict the arm movement a touch and - obviously - you'd need to remove the helmet to move his head (and the range of positions you can use are somewhat limited by the need to line-up with the helmet opening) but it's not really something to lose any sleep over.
The Bone theme continues with the figure's face paint, which features a skull-inspired design. He's also sporting a bone necklace beneath his armor, which is a neat touch and, from the coloring, I'm assuming his two white wrist/ankle accessories are also forged from bone. Both with and without the helmet, he's a neat-looking figure and I'm reminded of the Thugees from Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom for some reason.
The figure uses the standard Imaginext articulation set-up we've come to know: swivel head, two-joint shoulders, twist wrists and single joint, connected hips.
As cool as the Tribesman is, the real star of this set is the Velociraptor. So let's take a closer look at him, shall we?
The Velociraptor is a bipedal dinosaur, which makes it an ideal combat mount (as both its claws and teeth can be used to attack foes.) Unlike some of the other dinosaurs in this new line-up, the Velociraptor does not include any firing weapons or augmentation beyond the saddle/riding platform (we'll come back to that in a moment) but it does include a neat little play feature in the form of chomping jaws, activated by pressing the button on the rear of the saddle. It's a pretty cool feature and I could imagine kids enjoying it a lot, for all its simplicity.
I'm pleased to see Imaginext has gone with a more ''lifelike'' sculpt here than those seen in the previous wave of Dinosaur sets, which featured a smoother, more ''simple CGI''-like look. As you can see, there's some great detail in the figure's scales and claws and the head features some nice up-close detailing around the teeth and eyes, which are further augmented with a clean paint app.
Unfortunately, the Velociraptor (and indeed, many of the other, smaller dinosaurs) features hollow legs. It's a little bit of an odd look from some angles but I can understand they're doing it to keep costs down.
From this angle we get a better look at the saddle or, more accurately - as the Tribesman doesn't sit on it - riding platform. It's cast from a nice, organic brown that looks good with the Dinosaur Green and, like the Velociraptor itself, it features some cool detailing. Again though, it also features those money saving hollowed-out parts, which is a little disappointing. I do like the skull detail on the piece, though, which helps sell the whole Bone Tribe idea...
As well as the lever-operated jaw, the Velociraptor features articulated forelimbs, with shoulder joints that allow the claws to move up and down. Sadly his rear legs and tail are locked in position. I'm not sure if this is the same for the larger sets and I'm hoping this is simply due to the Velociraptor being one of the cheaper dinosaur toys in the line-up.
I was really excited to see Imaginext's new Dinosaur line. Like kids of all ages, I love dinosaurs and had always been tempted by the previous Dinosaur releases (I'd just never pulled the trigger on them, for whatever reason), so when I saw this new line combining Aztec-style warriors with the return of the more detailed dino sculpts, I knew I'd have to grab a few.
This concept, of merging primitive Mesoamerican tribesmen with dinosaurs is a really interesting idea and, like many Imaginext themes, allows kids to explore a variety of scenarios that will work with their other Imaginext figures. Pirates could stumble upon a lost island of dinosaur-riding peoples, the DC Superfriends could travel to a parallel universe where dinosaurs never died out, the knights of the Castle theme could encounter a people who have mastered the ''dragons'' of lore. I'm sure your kids will have their own ideas, too, and this is one of the real strengths of the Imaginext line that makes it so much fun.
Of the four available ''starter'' sets, the Velociraptor will, I'm sure, prove the most popular. Velociraptors are immediately cool, courtesy of that scene in Jurassic Park and Imaginext's designers have managed to capitalize on that awesomeness with a great-looking sculpt and an eye-catching-but-realistic paint app (although how ''realistic'' our concept of dinosaurs really is is still open to question...) Add to that a great-looking Tribesman (because bad guys are always cooler) and the result is a really very cool two-figure set.
It's not without its flaws, though...
For starters, the Tribesman is crying out for a weapon. The Collectible Figures Series 2 Caveman came equipped with a spear that would be perfect here but, alas, the Tribesman is unarmed (unless you count his dinosaur...) And the limited articulation - coupled with the hollow limbs and platform details - do take a little of the shine away from the Velociraptor itself. Imaginext toys have always been super-affordable but of a really high quality and this is probably the first time I've ever bought a cheaper set and been able to see just where those savings came from.
Don't get me wrong: it's a really good dinosaur-and-figure set, especially at the price. It's just that with a couple of extra features (such as some weaponry) and a little more detail in the sculpt (or more accurately, a solid sculpt) it could have been awesome. But maybe I'm just nit-picking and I'm sure kids won't notice it and adult collectors will probably be relieved that these little tweaks at least kept the price down.
A really fun dinosaur and cool tribesman figure, marred slightly by budgetary constraints.